Tuesday, 3 December 2013

'Looking Towards Meadfoot from Hope's Nose'

Now there's a title for a painting! Well, it wasn't me who named this part of the Torbay coastline. I painted this as a demonstration for Totnes Art Society, three weeks ago. 'Seascapes' was the requested topic, so this is what I did for them. Demo' paintings are always a challenge. Just two hours, from blank canvas (paper for a watercolourist), to last brush stroke... with the all-important tea break in the middle.
I was quite pleased with the way this one turned out, particularly the ripples on the water. I began with a pencil outline, followed by a 'controlled wash'* over the whole sheet. When it was dry, the painting was finished in a series of washes.

*This term was used by the late, great Jack Merriott (1901-1968) who was a master of watercolour and oil. His book, Discovering Watercolour, is long out of print. However, there are many copies around and it can usually be found on a well-known online store for just a few pounds. For anyone who is serious about learning the art of watercolour painting, it is a must have. The controlled wash then, is achieved by working in one over-all wash across the entire surface, to create 'a nebulous atmosphere in harmony with the scene'. This is then allowed to dry completely, before finishing the painting with one or two washes working from light to dark. Turner also used this technique to great effect but, as far as I know, it was Jack Merriott who put this name to it.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

'Clouds over Torcross

On another painting trip to Torcross, in South Devon, the sky was a little heavier with a few interesting clouds. The wind was up too, hence the windbreaks on the beach. Light was still good though and, after bracing my easel with a heavy rucksack, I painted this on the spot. I must admit, as someone who loves to paint light-filled subjects, I do prefer a little drama in the sky as opposed to just a flat, blue one.


Monday, 7 October 2013

'Rocks and Water'

This demonstration painting was done during one of my 'trouble-shooting' sessions. On the final day of a course I ask my students if there is any last thing that I can demonstrate for them. On this occasion I was requested to do demonstrate water splashing against rocks. Someone else asked if I could show how to portray wet sand. Luckily, I could do both of these in the same painting.


Friday, 4 October 2013

'Ferry Slipway at Dartmouth'

Another on-site demonstration painting for one of my painting holiday classes. There's so much to paint at a location like this. This spot is Bayard's Cove, where there's a ferry to/from Kingswear on the north side of the Dart. Just to my right is the Tudor artillery fort, which once defended the harbour entrance. At the foot of the hill, on the north side, there is a steam railway line, which operates between Kingswear and Paignton.


Thursday, 3 October 2013

'Looking Towards Meadfoot'

This is one of the views, in Torbay, which is part of the South West Coastal Path. The painting was done as a demonstration to my students, during one of my painting holidays this year. I wanted to show how to paint the atmospheric feel of the bay, and to portray a feeling of distance with the headland receding into the hazy background.


Wednesday, 2 October 2013


This is Pilgrim or, to be more precise, Pilgrim BM45. She's a fully restored 1895 Brixham built gaff-rigged sailing trawler. I'm fortunate enough to live in Torbay and this boat is frequently seen in the bay. With its distinctive red sails, it is easy to spot. What makes it an interesting subject for me, from an artistic point of view, is the shape of the hull and the lovely, fluid reflection.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

St Swithin's Church, Brookthorpe, Glos.

I was in Gloucester recently, to run a watercolour course at the Summer School. During my 5 night stay I got to know the local pub quite well. This tiny church, St. Swithin's, Brookthorpe, was a few yards away so, one evening, I packed my travelling watercolour kit and painted this at around 8pm. Although there was plenty of light pouring through the window, the interior was quite dim. I had about half an hour before lights out.

Monday, 3 June 2013

Manzac d'en Bas

Just returned from a recent holiday in the Ariege, France, where I will be leading a watercolour painting holiday next year.
Taking only hand luggage, meant that I was travelling very light. However, I did manage to pack a small journal and my tiny watercolour palette. To make things fit I even cut down the handles on the brushes!
As it was a family holiday, painting opportunities were few but I did manage to sit down and sketch the studio on a day, which was too wet to venture out.

A welcoming place with great views and an endless range of subject matter for the painter.

Friday, 26 April 2013

Demonstration at Chagford

Yesterday, I did a demonstration painting for Chagford Art Group. A blank sheet to completed watercolour painting in 2 hours, with a 15 minute tea break, can be quite a daunting prospect. However, I've been doing these for about ten years now, so I know what I'm in for. 
I stretched a half-sheet of 200lb Bockingford Rough paper to my board, the previous day. Stretching the paper beforehand provides a lovely, flat surface to paint on and I know that I'll be able to soak the paper without fear of it buckling (I still carry an extra sheet, just in case of a mishap).
I began by quickly sketching out the main shapes, with a 5B pencil. I then diluted some colours in my mixing palette. I usually begin a painting by applying a wet-in-wet wash to the entire sheet, mixing colours on the paper, to create a soft-edged shapes. Once this was dry (on demo's I use a hair dryer to speed things up), I began creating more solid forms and recognizable shapes. Finally, I put in the shadows.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Watercolour Demonstration

Here's me in action during a painting demonstration at Art Holidays in Dorset. I was there last week for a course on painting from photographs. My aim was to show students how to use their photographs to create loose and lively watercolours, rather than simply copy them line for line. We had a good break, and much work was done... accompanied by some good food and hospitality, courtesy of Christine and John who run Art Holidays.
Many thanks to Nobu Konno for the photograph, who came all the way from Japan for the course (and a whirlwind tour of the UK).

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

'The Devil's Slide', Lundy

  'The Devil's Slide' is a 400 foot slab of granite on the island of Lundy. This small island, 3 miles by 1 mile, is 10 miles off the N. Devon coast. It is owned by the National Trust and is accessible only by sea or air.
  We travelled there by boat, the MS Oldenburg, some years back. There are hardly any trees to speak of. It's like a mini Dartmoor, all on it's own in the middle of the sea. The coastline is very rugged, as you can see from this painting. There are similar views where I live in S. Devon, which I find very inspiring.
  I used a limited palette for this painting. My intention was to depict the play of sunlight and shadow and give some kind of feel of distance.

Sunday, 31 March 2013


  I chose this unusual format for the painting, as I thought the narrow shape lent itself to the street scene. 
  Totnes is just a short bus ride away from us, and is a place I visit often. The town dates back to AD 907. It has many ancient buildings, including a Norman Castle, and is said to contain more listed buildings than any other town.
  Scenes looking up, or down, a hill make interesting subjects and are a real test of your grip of the laws of perspective. 

Thursday, 28 March 2013

'Boat Repairs'

  Boatyards can be inspiring locations for artists. All those boats... and junk! This boat was being worked on, surrounded by crates, boxes, ropes and everything else you'd expect to see in a boatyard.
  What made me take a second look though, was the effect of strong sunlight. It can transform something you'd normally walk by, into something special.
  What you can't see is the large, white boat just to the left. This was responsible for the lovely reflected light that you can see in the shadows. It bounced light into the side of the boat and made it something worth painting.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

'Saltern Cove'

  This peaceful little cove is quite near to where we live. It was a warm, hazy scene and I wanted this to come through in the painting. After drawing the outline onto a sheet of stretched paper, I diluted several colours, separately, in the wells of my palette (cobalt blue, raw sienne, raw umber & alizarin crimson).
  I then wetted the entire surface of the sheet with clean water. After allowing this to settle in, I began dropping in these colours, wet-in-wet, allowing them to mix on the paper. This inititial wash creates a very atmospheric look, which will influence any washes that are applied on top.
  Once dry, I began working from the distant headland to the foreground, with wet-on-dry washes.

'Seen Better Days'

  I don't know what it is about old wrecks like this, but they make irresistible subjects for many artists and I'm no different. 
  What makes it interesting for me personally, is the light and shade effect and the way that the light is visible through the cracks in the hull.
  This rests by the Exeter Canal, just along by the Turf Locks hotel. We ended up here after a long walk from the relatively busy city, along the canal path, to the very peaceful spot here.
  I chose a very limited palette to keep the colours subtle.

Friday, 22 March 2013

Tones and Negative Shapes

  Tones again? Yes, 'fraid so. These little class demo's were done very quickly. I did the monotone one first. I often do this before I work in colour. It helps me to focus on the design, and the way that light affects the scene. You'll notice a little sun, at top right, which helps me to remember the direction of the light source.
  I then did a colour sketch of the scene. Light washes were applied first. Once dry, I then painted those dark, background, negative shapes. 'Negative' spaces are those that exist around the subject we are painting. They can be very useful, especially in watercolour. It's that dark area which throws the boat shape forwards. If I'd placed the boat against a bright sky, it would almost disappear into the background.

Painting in Monotone

Students attending any of my workshops will be familiar with my thoughts on tonal relationships, and how important I consider them to be in painting. If I had a list of priorities, in making pictures, I would put tonal values just beneath design and just above colour.
I often start my workshops with a few 'loosening up' exercises, and monotone studies are a good way to begin. 
  This small study of a glass bottle was a class demonstration. I wanted students to concentrate on just 3 tones: light/medium/dark, plus white for highlights. This exercise really helps them to stay focused, especially if they don't stray from the idea of just 3 tones.
  Of course, in watercolour, your lightest tone is the white surface of the paper. Being a transparent medium, every wash that is applied makes a darker tone. Less water in the washes, means darker tones.

Friday, 1 February 2013

New Article in Leisure Painter

The new issue of Leisure Painter magazine contains a three-page article I have written. The subject is one that I am keen to get across at my workshops, and that is painting with a limited palette. I tend to work with 4 or 5 colours, for a particular painting. Some subjects, like floral studies, may require more but, in general, I make do with just a few. It creates a harmonious look to the painting. For the above painting I used only 3.
For those of you outside the UK, you can view the article online by following this link: